Adults from across North Carolina might join the New Hill Hunter Education and Mentoring Program each February to simply launch their hunting careers, but they quickly learn that hunting is about so much more than the harvest. Developed by a group of seasoned hunting education volunteer instructors in 2019 on Duke Energy property in New Hill, North Carolina, this year-long program introduces students first to the land.
Over the course of these programs students are taught to experience nature as a participant. Understanding what the habitat has to offer a specific wildlife species seasonally; how that wildlife uses the land to their advantage; where it seeks food, and finds cover, water, and shelter; and what threats wildlife face; are all an integral part of understanding that species. Appreciating the contributions and the inter-connected roles of other area wildlife species is equally important, as is working to support their needs. New Hill students learn to acknowledge their kinship with wildlife, and better appreciate both their role in, and responsibility to, supporting the land that is home to the wildlife that they seek.
Students learn that hunting creates an intimate connection to a place; and with that connection comes a passion to conserve and protect those properties serving their needs. Most students involved in the New Hill program join not only for the opportunity to take responsibility for the food on their families’ table, but to teach other family members how to do the same. Therefore, wives, husbands, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews have all enjoyed the benefit of New Hill student’s participation. It is the camaraderie enjoyed by a hunting group while working the land, preparing for the hunt, and with some luck, enjoying the harvest, that hunters speak of most often.
One Facebook excerpt from program mentor Evan Trebilcock tactfully explains his “why” when describing his hunting journal: ‘That journal has every hunting and fishing memory I can recall. It has stories I will look back at forever, of friends I will always feel close to, of moments in the natural world only my eyes got to see. It goes where I do. It reminds me why I am out there, and it understands that these are the good old days I will always look back on. As I pack up my truck with 14 days’ worth of gear for a 6-day hunt, I look forward to what stories this journal will be able to tell once I return.’
Evan, together with Andy Tomaszewski, are founding members of OpportunityOutdoors.com, a facilitating partner of the New Hill program, whose aim is to also support the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commissions “R3” initiatives to Recruit, Retain, and Reactivate North Carolinian’s connection to the natural world. Opportunity Outdoors has become a valuable partner to the New Hill program, building community by connecting new hunters to qualified mentors, conservation organizations and other new hunters with whom they can share their journey. Together this team provides boots-on-the-ground support to new hunters; and serves as a particularly valuable resource to those who would like to participate in the hunting sports with a bow and arrow.
The New Hill program – which now offers video-conference participation to adults statewide in addition to hands-on field days – was developed in collaboration with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s R3 team to complement programs developed by that Agency. Invaluable support from both the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and North Carolina Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is also enjoyed. ActionPackerOutdoors.com provides both mentors and discounted access to a wide variety of outdoor tools to students, sage advice, and an opportunity for students to share their experiences via a new platform called “Your Outdoor Chronicles.”
The New Hill program would not have been started without the support of Duke Energy and their forestry and wildlife conservation team organized by Derek Ware, who continues to provide not only guidance and native habitat seed, plants and soil amendments, but actively manages this property’s habitat for the benefit of both wildlife and timber value through conservation-based forestry practices.
In short, the New Hill Hunter Education and Mentoring Program serves as a great example of how communities, government agencies, private industry, and conservation organizations can work together to achieve a great result.
New hunters will meet by webinar on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month between February and September. Find a complete list of 2021 free webinar events here: Learn to Hunt Other hunter education events offered by New Hill can be found on Facebook @NewHEMP. Ask questions and receive information about how to apply for available programs by following this Google Forms link: “New Hill Hunter Education and Mentoring Program”